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A Little Theory

Λύχνις Δαν

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Hi ya,


  This is probably one for Robert Holmstedt given the question arises directly from your explanatory PDF on the syntax module, not that I'm averse to anyone else answering this.


  I was reading http://www.accordancebible.com/content/common/common.download_file.php?action_special=download_file&sid=4af887fa17fb424b68eaecc1e959954e&download_file_path=files/documents/154580.pdf&download_file_title=Introduction+to+Hebrew+Syntax.pdfwhich appears to be an elaboration of the earlier Holmstedt_Paper.pdf and I have a couple of questions. I'm trying to get my head around the theoretical model of the syntax db in order to be better able to use it. Currently I own the Greek but as my Hebrew progresses I am likely to get the Hebrew one. I realise there are some divergences in the DBs but I trust they don't extend deeply into the theoretical underpinnings.


  1. Is there a reasonable, and hopefully moderately accessible, introduction to minimalist generative grammars that you would recommend as appropriate to gaining some understanding of the dominant theory in this DB ? I'm not trained in linguistics by the way.


  2. In the papers above there is some syntax used in explanations that is not itself explained. I'll drop in a couple of quotes and perhaps you can explain the usage there.


Ellipsis is dealt with similarly, although it also involves the combination
of the cross-referencing numeral with a null tag (0) marking the place of the
elided constituent, as in (10)
( חֲמוֹר אֵבוּס בְּעָלָיו ( 10 " הוּ ו # נ) ע שׁוֹר &! י
[ [ 01 knows ox owner=its ] [ and=ass 01 trough.of master=its ] ]
'an ox knows its owner // and an ass (knows) its master’s trough' (Isa 1:3)


  The line I've marked in bold with it's use of owner=its and and=ass and master=its. Could you explain the = sign is indicating here ?


This is the case with many proper nouns, such as בֵּית לֶֶחם Bethlehem ‘House of Bread’, but
also true of complex prepositions, such as מֵעַל פְּנֵי , which is decomposable morphologically as
‘from.upon the.face.of’ but syntactically is taken as a single syntactic constituent ‘from’.


  Again in the piece I've marked in bold, how should one interpret the use of the '.' here ?

  Perhaps the = and . are both part of one syntax for representing something.


Many thanx


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Hi Daniel,


Working backwards, I'll start with my interlinear glossing (which borrows heavily from general linguistics conventions, esp. the Leipzig Glossing Rules -- you can find them free online by searching the name):

1. The period (.) represents morphological cliticization of one noun to the following noun (the so-called Hebrew "construct" relationship). 

2. The equals signs (=) represents possessive cliticization of a pronoun to a preceding noun (often called suffixed possessive pronouns).


On a recommendation for minimalist syntax, I really don't think it's necessary for understanding the database. I'll simply be frank -- generative linguistics is not something that one should read on his/her own. Most of the textbooks assume the presence of a seasoned linguist as a teaching guide. In that context, perhaps the most easily accessible is Andrew Carnie's Syntax: A Generative Introduction. But if you've had no linguistics training, I suggest starting back a few steps with a textbook that does not take any particular theoretical stance, such as Fromkin, Rodman, and Hyams, An Introduction to Language (10th edition, 2013). If I were asked to teach a general introduction to linguistics, with emphasis on syntax, I would use these two in tandem. In fact, that would be a fun course!


I appreciate your curiosity and courage. Let me know how it goes.

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Hi Robert,


I agree that the database is accessible without linguistic training. And, I agree with David in another post, that even if we have to think of how you would analyze a clause, and make adjustments for our own queries, "it is a small price to pay for an intuitive interface and a database that delivers results."


I'm quite happy with this post. I just started reading An Introduction to Language, and based on your recommendation I'll read Syntax: A Generative Introduction next.


Before I saw this post, I was considering MIT's Introduction to Linguistics course at http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/linguistics-and-philosophy/24-900-introduction-to-linguistics-fall-2012/index.htm . It uses O'Grady, Archibald, et al.'s Contemporary Linguistics: An Introduction, and Baker's The Atoms of Language: The Mind's Hidden Rules of Grammar, which do take a stand on generative grammar, and on the principles and parameters approach. I was going to read these after An Introduction to Language. Would you recommend either of these after reading Carnie?


If you ever teach that course, please post the syllabus on Ancient Hebrew Grammar.


Thank you, and regards,



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Thank for the quick response Robert. I have downloaded a PDF on Leipzig Glossing Rules. I've ordered a secondhand copy of Fromkin et al. If I survive that I'll look at Carnie.


Regarding the above, I'm assuming that the Hebrew construct state is essentially the same as that of Akkadian right ? I've not really started formally reading Hebrew grammar yet.


Many thanx again


Edited by Daniel Semler
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Michel — I looked at the MIT online course a few years ago. It looked very interesting. I haven't read those textbooks, though, so I can't say anything helpful (except that Baker is always interesting to read, in a very meaty way).


Daniel — the Hebrew "construct state" is, in my opinion, a form of word cliticization (I have an EHLL entry on this with Elan Dresher; it's posted at my blog, listed in my tagline below). As such, it is nearly identical to the Akkadian bound form.

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Once again thanx. More to learn - it will never end :) Good thing it's fun. I'll take a look at that article.




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